|Flickr CC Photo by Etrusia UK|
* The Cloud
It is clear that more and more computing, storing, and sharing is moving to the cloud. The cloud allows for anytime, anywhere access and facilitates collaboration. When storage and applications are cloud based it is also possible to improve security and achieve savings (maintinaing one's own servers, etc).
But how fast do we make the move and what might we lose in the exchange? For example, if we announced tomorrow that we were going straight to cloud computing, teachers would lose access to several applications which are only available in our on-site system. It would be demoralizing to these teachers and detrimental to instruction to pull the rug on them.
* Mobility. Even adults who are inclined to shun technology have been pulled into computing by smart phones. Many persons work from their phones. The iPad has also stood computing on its head. Not only has it created a category of hybrid between the netbook and smart phone, it is a category killer. 97% of all "slate" computing is done through the iPad.
As iPad-like devices gain in functionality, it becomes harder to justify the expense and inconvenience of requiring students to have a laptop. An iPad's battery easily lasts though a school day. It turns on and off instantly. Both of these features are incredibly attractive to classroom teachers annoyed by the daily recurrence of laptops dying or interminably rebooting. BUT, for a 1:1 school such as ours, going from an elite laptop to an iPad would result in significant loss in capacity to create documents, slides and assorted media. Moreover, in our case we currently use HPs. As of today they have not even released a comparable product. Moving to an iPad would be a radical change. But moving to an iPad wannabe qualifies as early adaptor and potential PR disaster (No apps, no iTunes, "No thanks", I can now hear my students saying). But, on the other hand, the whole market and technology could turn on a dime (VHS v. Betamax). Whose to say that a Droid-like slate won't successfully enter the market and gain a huge share (and requisite apps).
Recently, Tom shared with me a video demo for Windows 8. I was stunned by the degree to which Microsoft is betting its future on the touch environment of Droids and iPads.
One only has to watch a teenager text with her thumbs to get an idea at what kind of gap can grown generationally as kids slide easily into new phones, new games, new tablets. As kids grow up with these popular and ubiquitous devices, will the schools cling to keyboards and mice because the teachers are more comfortable computing that way? Furthermore, the difference between consumer hardware and "enterprise" machines is far less distinguishable. Do we continue to ban smartphones and closing off our wi-fi systems to the kids' phones, readers and slates? Or do we embrace them with all the confusion attendant
Tom tells me that the given cycle for a new model of device is now down to about 10 months. He also predicts persuasively that many of the major players in technology won't even be around in a few years.
In my mind this issue relates directly to the others. How can I ask the school and our parents to invest in hardware that may become virtually obsolete in the time it takes a student to move through a four year school. Yet, without uniformity of some kind for every student, how can the teachers take advantage of some of the exciting possibilities of this brave new world.
Tom and the rest of our team have a lot to chew on. The stakes make me more than a little anxious, but he's right-- This certainly is an exciting time.